My first two trips to Cannon were totally socked in with clouds and the third trip had a mix of clouds, so when I saw the clear weather forecast for Tuesday, it seemed like it was going to be my day to get some nice views from Cannon. I also wanted to try out the Kinsman Ridge Trail to the tramway parking lot to the summit which I had never hiked. With the trail’s shorter distance of 4.4 miles round trip, it was also perfect for a Carpool Challenge.
I arrived at the tramway as the sun was just peaking over the Franconia ridges and headed toward the trail head in the cold crisp air. To reach the point where the trail starts into the woods, I took the dirt road to the left from the parking area. There is a small white sign at the very left of the tramway buildings indicating that the trail is to the left. This dirt road will take you back to the trailers and staging area for the construction work, swing to the right at the trailers, and near the end of the lot where the hills start to rise there is another sign indicating the start of the trail to the left.
This portion of the Kinsman Ridge trail to the summit is only 2.2 miles, and the elevation gain starts right away and remains fairly steady until closer to the outlook area at the top of Cannon Cliffs, about 1.8 miles into the trail. The trail goes through mixed forest first, then an eroded, gullied section and then through a rocky section. The rocky section parallels some of the ski trail and in some spots you can see the supports for the tramway through the trees. Due to the fact that the trees in the lower section had already lost their leaves, the views down to Echo Lake were nice.
It was also in the rocky section that I encountered the ice. The rocks were only partially encased in ice, which meant that with careful consideration with regard to foot placement and a slower pace, I was able to hike up the trail on the rocks with no difficulty. Eventually the ski trail and hiking trail diverged to take two different paths up the mountain; the hiking trail goes to the left and is signed. The ice continued a little way up this portion of the trail and then was gone; for the rest of the trail I only saw small patches of ice which was easy to step around.
The trail grade eased as I got to the outlook junction. The outlook path leads to a magnificent viewpoint, with views across to the entire Franconia range, north and south on I-93 and back up the mountain to the observation tower.
After enjoying the views and taking photos, it was time for the last little section to the summit. This part of the trip was a nice easy traverse through mossy, coniferous forest with a little bit of an elevation gain over the rocks at the end to the junction with the Rim Trail.
A quick walk around the trail and I was at the summit and observation platform. The observation platform had a little rime ice on it, but with the light winds and plentiful sunshine, it was a nice place to enjoy the views, take a break and get a snack. After enjoying my break, it was time to leave and make the descent back to the car. I enjoyed the sunshine and easy trail all the way back to the icy sections, where I carefully made my way down each section and eventually descended through the eroded gully and back down to the mixed forest and the car.
While not a huge mountain or long trek, this hike was a great hike and the views were certainly worth waiting for a good day. As the clouds started to thicken the sky on my trip to pick up the children later in the afternoon, I couldn’t help but to be extremely thankful for the clear weather and physical ability to be out and enjoy the morning.